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What Are the Pros and Cons of Scatter Advertising?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

"Scatter advertising" is a term that refers to advertising time, most notably on television, that is sold to advertisers close to the air date. Most advertising is planned well in advance and advertising time is purchased early as part of an overarching plan. Scatter advertising grants more air time to advertisers but is generally less targeted to specific demographic groups. The greatest advantages of this form of advertising are increased air time, possible exposure to new and receptive demographics, and, in some cases, cheaper advertising time. Disadvantages include the possibility of advertising to an uninterested audience and, in a particularly strong economy, more expensive advertising time.

Though most advertising money is spent on carefully planned and targeted advertising strategies, scatter advertising is still popular and profitable. At the very least, it provides more advertising time, which results in more people being exposed to the subject of the advertisement. Scatter advertising, because of its unplanned nature, often reaches demographics different from those targeted by planned advertising. In many cases, this simply means that the people who see the advertisement will have little or no interest in it. Sometimes, however, this form of unplanned advertising may reach an as-of-yet undiscovered demographic that is greatly interested in the products or services advertised.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

The cost of scatter advertising can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on a few different factors. In a strong economy when sales are high and business is good, the limited spaces available for scatter advertising can be quite costly. They are, however, more likely to be cost effective as people tend to buy more in a strong economy. Conversely, this advertising time may be comparably inexpensive in a weak economy. People tend to spend less money in a weak economy, so this advertising time is less likely to be cost effective.

Disadvantages of scatter advertising are primarily related to the unplanned nature of this form of advertising. These advertisements tend to show at unpopular times and are generally not aimed at specific demographics. As such, there is a significant chance that few people will see the advertisements and that those who do see them will have little interest in what is advertised. If the advertisements do not reach a new demographic with interest in what is advertised, it is quite likely that such advertising will not pay off in the long run. Scatter advertising is a gamble and, as such, is inherently risky and comes with no guarantee of success.

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